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Adult Book Club - January

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

ADULT BOOKCLUB JANUARY

Our adult book club is back with their review of December's book, 'For One More Day', and you get the chance to choose your favourite book for February.

Maria Dickenson, Book Club Chair
Maria Dickenson has always been a keen book lover. She started out in the world of books as a librarian, but is now working for Easons where she is a buyer in head office. She is a committee member of the Bookseller's Association and the Society of Publishers in Ireland, and is a member of a bookclub herself.  Her favourite reads include Audrey Niffenegger's 'The Time Traveller's Wife', Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' and Alice Sebold's 'The Lovely Bones'.

Other professionally-related jobs include:
- committee member of the Society of Publishers in Ireland
- some work reading manuscripts for the literary agent Marianne Gunn O'Connor
- contributions to Reader's Days for Dublin City Libraries

In terms of media work, Maria was a monthly contributor to the Marian Finucane bookclub, and wrote the accompanying Reader's Guides for distribution through bookshops. She has also contributed on occasion to Rattlebag, but more frequently to Newstalk (Orla Barry Show and Damian Kiberd). In terms of TV, my her experience is a recent contribution to a documentary on women's fiction currently in production for RTE. She writes a monthly column on the Irish booktrade for the UK based trade journal, Publishing News. 
On the personal side, she has been a member of a bookclub for several years and is a voracious reader (in both a personal and a professional capacity!)

Our Reviewers
Charlie Quinn
Margaret McDonald
Frances Cassidy
Angela Cornyn.

Book being reviewed today on the show
"For One More Day" by Mitch Albom (Little Brown ISBN:1401303277)
Chick Benetto is at the end of his tether.  An ex-baseball player who has fallen on troubled times, he has become an alcoholic, estranged from his family.  When he discovers that his daughter has been married without telling him, he decides there is nothing left to live for, and plans to take his own life. He returns to his childhood home, but on the way there crashes his car. He seems to emerge unscathed, and tries to take his life by jumping from a water cooler near his old baseball pitch. 

Again, he survives, but when he lands he sees what he assumes is a vision of his mother, who is some years dead. Shaken, he returns to the family home with intention of ending his life there. But when he arrives, his mother is there also. Chick's downfall dates from his mother's death, and her appearance brings back all sorts of memories about her and about their relationship. His father was a cold man, who left them when he was young, but re-emerged from time to time to pressurize his son about his baseball career. 

Chick was a self-confessed 'daddy's boy', and did not repay the kindness and sacrifice of his mother. The book is interspersed with chapters entitled 'Times my mother stood up for me' and ' Times I did not stand up for my mother'. As the book continues, Chick and his mother visit various people from her life, and it is hinted at that he is having an otherworldly experience, having been injured in the car crash. His mother, she explains to him, is always near when people from her life are thinking of her. It becomes clear that Chick will shortly be returning to the real world, and his mother takes him for one last visit, with a woman who, it transpires, was also married to Chick's father when he left them. 

She is Italian, and whispers 'Perdonare' (forgive yourself). He gets to tell his mother that she was a good mother, and that he loves her, and returns to earth. Chick overcomes his alcoholism, rebuilds his relationship with his daughter, and becomes friends with his wife, and finds a new job.  In one final twist, it turns out that the narrator of the story - who it seems from the introduction was a stranger who had a chance encounter with Chick - is actually his daughter. Just as Chick was allowed one more day with his mother, she has one more day with him.

About the author: Mitch Albom
Mitch Albom, 45, is a bestselling author, nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist for the Detroit Free Press, nationally-syndicated radio host for ABC and flagship station WJR-AM in Detroit, and television commentator who regularly appears on ESPN's Sports Reporters.
Mitch Albom is the author of eight books, including Tuesdays With Morrie. Oprah Winfrey produced a major television movie for ABC based on Tuesdays With Morrie that aired in December 1999 and starred Jack Lemmon and Hank Azaria. A phenomenon in its own right, the movie was not only the most-watched on any network for that year; it also earned four Emmy Awards in 2000. With more than five million copies now in print, Tuesdays With Morrie is also published in 36 countries, in 31 languages, and was a bestseller in Japan, Australia, Brazil, and England. He has served on numerous charitable boards and founded three charities in the Detroit area. He lives with his wife, Janine, in Michigan.

Reviews of the book
Charlie Quinn
: This novel is essentially a story about sons and mothers that a lot of sons will be able to identify with. It is a story of loss and bereavement and of a son's love for his mother which he did not show when she was alive. While the story overall is too mawkishly sentimental to be credible, it does describe some scenes and situations well. The principal dilemna for the central character is his relationship to his mother and father when their marriage breaks up: he is forced to choose - at least provisionally. His father's words to him as a young boy have a strong impact: "You can be a mama's boy or a daddy's boy. But you can't be both". This creates a conflict in his mind and spirit that nearly destroys him. His mother is the one who always selflessly stands by him and is there for him but he nonetheless seeks his absent father's approval. The situation of a divorced attractive young mother in small-town 1950's America is well described. She receives no support and is treated with suspicion by other wives. Some men and husbands see her as someone who can be taken advantage of. The children are patronised and condescended to. The heroism and nobility of the mother is well represented and rings true. Her love is truly caring and selfless unlike the father's attention which is conditional. It is an idealisation of motherhood though and, to that extent, one-dimensional. The problem with Mitch Albom's work is that he deals in stereotypes, in cardboard characters. We are presented with simplifications which are often ridiculously sentimental. It offers us a feel-good morality fable with home-spun wisdom which tries too hard to pull at our heart-strings. It offers a too-neat resolution and a happy ending.
The story is too contrived to be convincing and it is manipulative because it exploits people's guilt feelings following bereavement.

Frances Cassidy: The book was not a difficult read but I found it hard to categorise it.. I was curious as to where the author was coming from and what his objectives were. Is this book a self help guide disguised as a novella? It deals mainly with family issues, divorce, and the parental relationship between the mother/father and the child as he grows up. There is emotional fragility in Charley's life as he tries to align himself with his absent father and in doing so distances himself from his mother. The core relationships of life ie. Family, seem to be at the centre of this story. How we support, nourish and maintain these connections is emphasized by the main character Charley as he reflects on his own life and asks us. What would you do if given the time back again to make amends for things you regret? The story nudges us and asks us to be more aware of love in our lives.. It also touches base with the negative aspects of life, separation, loss, shame, anger, despair. The book is written in a simple narrative style and has a homely feel about it. The descriptions of the 50s - 60s in America are good, lifestyle, fashion, food , baseball. I think the book has popular appeal and will probably be widely read.

Angela Cornyn: This is a ghost story.  It is also a story about family, a warts and all version, but it is also a story about a life disintegrating to the point of suicide after the loss of a basesball career and above all the loss of a mother who was Charley (Chick) Benetto's anchor in life. It is a very poignant story.  Despite the fact that this is a slim volume, it is nevertheless rich in texture with a generous sprinkling of notes, letters, poems and lists from Charley's personal belongings adding to the sequence of events. I think that in order to appreciate the full impact of this story one must have lost a parent.  It seems to me that it is only then that one can understand the enormity of the loss and the intense longing, yearning, to spend a little more time with one's parent.  Time to put things right, time to get answers to questions, time maybe for affirmations on both sides and time to say goodbye and thank you.  The finality of death is so very hard to bear and this story shows very clearly that the loss of the love of a parent can be crippling together with guilt over past mistakes. This book has much to teach about parenting.  It shows the expectations that parents place on children (sometimes unfairly) and the need children have to please the parent whose love is elusive.This is a book that you can read quickly with its short snappy chapters but its story is one that will linger in your heart.
Strengths
1.Easy to read, very accessible. Conversational style.
2.A story that has lots of life's lessons.
3.Has a wide range of emotions and thus is rich and has something to offer most readers.
4.A well told story with a good ending.
Weaknesses
1.Some people may say that it is incredible.
2.Open to being overly sentimental.
My verdict
I found it an inspiring, insightful, beautifully-written read and would highly recommend it.

Margaret Mc Donald : Margaret liked the book. She thought it dealt with some very important issues such as alcoholism. She did find it confusing in parts. She thought the main character was full of guilt and remorse and she felt pity for him.  Overall she thought it was good.

Books For February's Bookclub
Book A : "The Brief History Of The Dead"  by Kevin Brockmeier (John Murray General Publishing ISBN: 0719568307)
Book B : "The Book Thief"  by Markus Zusak (Doubleday ISBN: 0385611471)
Book C :  "Whitethorn Woods" by Maeve Binchy (Orion ISBN: 0752882082)

"The Brief History Of The Dead"  by Kevin Brockmeier (John Murray General Publishing ISBN: 0719568307)
A remarkable story about the power of human relationships to transcend even death.  Beyond earth and before heaven, there is a transitional zone, where people remain as long as they are remembered by the living. As the characters in this place get to know one another, one woman stranded on earth is struggling to come to terms with her situation. An imaginative and thoughtful debut novel.

"The Book Thief"  by Markus Zusak (Doubleday ISBN: 0385611471)
A charming and unusual tale of one little girl and how her love of books helps her tolerate the horror of war.  This book is narrated by Death: a grim start, you might think, but he is kinder than you'd imagine, and more afraid of humans than they are of him. He watches over the little book thief after her parents are taken away to the camps, and as she befriends a Jewish boxer in hiding.  Her love of books finds her friends, helps her community in times of trouble, and even comforts her in the saddest of times.  A powerful, moving and original story.

"Whitethorn Woods" by Maeve Binchy (Orion ISBN: 0752882082)
A warm and quirky small-town tale. The charming town of Rossport is in danger of been lost among modern stores, commuter traffic and suburban sprawl. But when a motorway by-pass is planned that will ruin the town's beloved woods and threaten its holy well, the residents must decide where their future lies.  Filled with quirky characters and told in Maeve's inimitable style, Whitethorn Woods will delight fans and newcomers alike.

Price of books: Book prices may vary from shop to shop.

"For One More Day" by Mitch Albom (Little Brown ISBN:1401303277) SPECIAL BORDERS PRICE €9.70 (While stocks last)

(Books provided courtesy of Borders Books, Blanchardstown)

"The Brief History Of The Dead"  by Kevin Brockmeier (John Murray General Publishing ISBN: 0719568307) €11.95 (Borders 3 for 2 offer)

"The Book Thief"  by Markus Zusak (Doubleday ISBN: 0385611471) €12.99

"Whitethorn Woods" by Maeve Binchy (Orion ISBN: 0752882082)  SPECIAL BORDERS PRICE €13.43 (While stocks last)

Book A : "The Brief History Of The Dead"  by Kevin Brockmeier
Book B : "The Book Thief"  by Markus Zusak
Book C :  "Whitethorn Woods" by Maeve Binchy

To vote for your favourite book just call 1512 71 70 71 and follow the instructions. Or you can simply text BOOK A, BOOK B or BOOK C to 53555.
Texts and calls cost 25cent.

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